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UNICEF prepares to support Myanmar as Cyclone Mahasen approaches

2013-05-15

SITTWE, Myanmar, 15 May 2013 - As Cyclone Mahasen threatens to hit the communities in Rakhine State, home to thousands of displaced people, UNICEF stands ready to support the government of Myanmar to respond to humanitarian needs.

The living conditions of the people in Rakhine are already precarious as a result of inter-communal conflict and displacement.  Should the storm make heavy landfall, their situation will become very fragile.

Even if direct hits are averted, heavy rainfall and possible flooding that come with the cyclone is likely to deteriorate sanitation and safe water supply, with subsequent increased health threats especially for children.

Together with other UN agencies and international NGOs, UNICEF is working closely with the Myanmar government to make sure that local residents are relocated to relatively safe areas, and that stockpiles in warehouses meet needs.

The agency has increased its human resource capacity, sending additional staff to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, over the past two days.

“UNICEF, along with other UN agencies and INGOs, is busy in Sittwe, especially in the northern part of Rakhine, to make sure that supply, provision and human resource capacity are deployed and to review different mechanisms to respond” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in Myanmar.

UNICEF fully supports the commitment expressed by President Thein Sein and the Government of Myanmar at a press conference in Yangon this morning, to carry out emergency preparedness and response without racial and religious discrimination, and to save every life as the utmost priority.

The press conference detailed government’s actions in relocating vulnerable population to safety and its response plans in consultation with communities. The government has sought international cooperation and contributions in responding to the emergency.

Along with other international humanitarian agencies, UNICEF urges the government to ensure transparency, accountability, regular and open channels of communication, coordination and timely action in carrying out relief and response activities.

“It is important that all communities at risk are reached out on the basis of humanitarian principles and equity,” said Bainvel.  “The cyclone can exacerbate vulnerability of the IDPs but this can also be a time when divisions along religious and ethnic lines can be transcended, and when solidarity for the most vulnerable, especially children, can unite people- and we should not miss this opportunity.” 

UNICEF is also looking into increasing its preparedness in other parts of the country such as Chin State, Mandalay region and Kachin, where strong winds and heavy rainfalls may further worsen the situation of vulnerable communities.

The agency also calls for greater financial support especially in WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), noting that earlier attempts have produced insufficient results for such critical life-savings interventions.

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About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries – more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.